The Ethical Chemist : Professionalism and Ethics in Science

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9780131411326: The Ethical Chemist : Professionalism and Ethics in Science

The basis of this book is a series of specific cases that present the kinds of ethical problems faced by both students and practicing chemists. Following these cases are commentaries that discuss the ethical issues raised, and present possible solutions in the form of morally acceptable courses of action. The introductory chapters provide an overview of ethics, morals, and ethical theory, as well as a discussion of professionalism and ethics in science. Ethical problem solving is explored in the chapter preceding the cases and commentaries. For chemists and scientists in other disciplines facing similar situations.

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About the Author:

Jeffrey Kovac. Educated at Reed College and Yale University, Jeffrey Kovac is Professor of Chemistry at the University of Tennessee where he has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in chemistry and interdisciplinary courses for the university honors program since 1976. Since 1994 he has served as Director of the Tennessee Governor's School for the Sciences, a four-week summer residential enrichment program in science for talented high school students. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His interdisciplinary scholarly interests include statistical mechanics and thermodynamics, history and philosophy of science, especially scientific ethics, and the scholarship of teaching and learning. He has been writing and lecturing about ethics in science for more than ten years. He is coauthor, along with Donna W. Sherwood, of Writing Across the Chemistry Curriculum: An Instructor's Handbook, also published by Prentice Hall (2001).

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As a child growing up during the coldest part of the Cold War and fascinated by science, I began to wonder about the scientists who created the terrible nuclear weapons that threatened to annihilate humanity. What did they think about the consequences of their work? In retrospect, this was the beginning of my interest in scientific ethics. In high school I discovered Jacob Bronowski's wonderful little book, Science and Human Values which helped me begin thinking about the question more systematically. Although I was a chemistry major in college, I took several philosophy courses, including ethics, and continued to read informally about the ethics of science. This the era of the Vietnam War, so ethical questions such as the morality of using herbicides, the infamous "Agent Orange," and napalm were part of the public discourse. There was much to consider.

As a graduate student I learned how to be a professional scientist, but the larger context of science was never far from my mind. At Yale auditing Martin Klein's courses in the history of science furthered my interest. As a young faculty member I focused on building a scientific career, but was finally able to put my interests in history and philosophy of science to use professionally at the University of Tennessee in 1988 when I taught a capstone course for senior chemistry majors that was supposed to explore the historical and cultural context of chemistry. In developing this course over seven years I began to introduce questions of scientific integrity. Ethical issues were in the news at the time, so the daily press and Science and Chemical and Engineering News provided plenty of material. Although the literature on biomedical ethics was emerging, there was little to be found on ethical questions in physical science. To help fill that gap, in 1993 (rev. 1995) I wrote a casebook, The Ethical Chemist, with the support of the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation. This casebook has been available for purchase at cost from the Department of at the University of Tennessee. I have lost track of how many copies we have distributed, but it is certainly more than five hundred. but it is certainly more than five hundred.

Since 1995 I have been exploring questions of scientific and professional ethics in more detail, developing my thinking in a series of articles that have been published in a number of venues. In addition, several users of the casebook have suggested that it be revised and expanded for a larger audience. The original version was written for an audience of senior chemistry majors and beginning graduate students, but it has been used, with varying success, in other contexts including lower division undergraduate courses and corporate settings. In rereading the original rebook I realized that many things could have been done much better. Writing the book you have in hand has provided an opportunity to develop my ideas about professionalism and ethics in science more fully, to revise the cases and commentaries in The Ethical Chemist, and to add a number of new cases.

I have tried to write a self-contained introduction to professional ethics for both chemistry students and practicing chemists. It can also be used as a textbook for a course or seminar in scientific ethics and as an instructor resource. The individual cases can be used as prompts for class discussions or writing assignments in many of the usual courses in an undergraduate or graduate chemistry curriculum. The Committee on Professional Training of the American Chemical Society has recently recommended that education in professional ethics be included in the undergraduate chemistry curriculum and has published suggestions for implementing this recommendation. This book provides adequate material for any of these possibilities. While it is written for chemists, the cases easily can be adapted for other sciences.

Many people have helped with this project. Over the years, I have been fortunate to have had a number of talented undergraduate research students working on it with me. The original version of The Ethical Chemist would not have been completed without the enthusiasm and hard work of Priscilla A. Frase. Kristy Carter wrote preliminary versions of several cases, and Sean, Seymore and Schylon Yates did important background research for that book. The present volume has benefitted from the excellent work of Michael Bleakley, Melinda Coker, Rachel Graves, Jennifer J. Rosenbaum, and especially Jason Johnson. Anne Moody of Truman State University contributed drafts of several new cases appropriate for use in lower-division chemistry courses. At various times The Ronald McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, the University of Tennessee, and especially the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation have provided financial support. Special thanks to Robert L. Lichter, the former director of the Dreyfus Foundation, for his personal support of my work.

In pursuing an interdisciplinary project it is important to talk to and to learn from colleagues. My mentors in chemistry, William D. Weir, Marshall Fixman, Irwin Oppenheim, and John W Larsen, not only helped me learn how to do highquality research but also were examples of scientific integrity. My undergraduate education at Reed College provided the broad perspective on the liberal arts necessary for undertaking a project like this. Over the past ten years I have benefitted enormously from discussions and correspondence with Davis Baird, Linda BenselMeyers,Norman S. Care, Brian P Coppola, Michael Davis, Donald Gotterbarn, Roald Hoffmann, and Linda Sweeting. I am particularly grateful to Roger Jones from whom I have received both minor suggestions and major enlightenment during our twenty-five-year dialogue about philosophy and science. Donna W Sherwood, my friend and colleague was a superb copy editor. Kent Porter-Hamann, Senior Editor, John Challice, Editor-in-Chief, Jacquelyn Howard, Editorial Assistant, and Lynda Castillo, at Prentice Hall made this book a reality. It is impossible adequately to thank my wife, Susan Davis Kovac, for her intellectual contributions and patient and loving support. Finally, this book is dedicated to my children, Peter and Rachel, and to the memory of Charles Davis, three remarkable examples of integrity and moral courage.

Jeffrey Kovac

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